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Travels west of the Alleghanies : made in 1793-96 by André Michaux, in 1802 by F.A. Michaux, and in 1803 by Thaddeus Mason Harris. online

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Early Western Travels

Volume III

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Fr. Andre Michaux

Travels West of the

Made in 1793-96 by Andre Michaux; in 1802 by

F. A. Michaux; and in 1803 by Thaddeus

Mason Harris, M. A.

Edited with Notes, Introductions, Index, etc., by

Reuben Gold Thwaites

Editor of "The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents," "Wisconsin

Historical Collections," "Chronicles of Border Warfare,"

"Hennepin's New Discovery," etc.

(Separate publication from "Early Western Travels: 1 748-1846,"
in which series this appeared as Volume III)

Cleveland, Ohio

The Arthur H. Clark Company



* » «

* * *



Preface. The Editor u


Journal of Travels into Kentucky; July 15, 1793-April

11, 1796. Andre Michaux ...... 25


Travels to the West of the Alleghany Mountains,
in the States of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessea, and
back to Charleston, by the Upper Carolines . . . un-
dertaken inthe year 1802. September 24, 1801— March
1, 1803. Francois Andre Michaux .... 105


The Journal of a Tour into the Territory North-
west of the Alleghany Mountains; made in the
Spring of the Year 1803. April 7 — "beginning of July."
Thaddeus Mason Harris, A.M. ..... 307



I. Portrait of Francois Andre Michaux. From oil paint-
ing in possession of American Philosophical So-
ciety at Philadelphia .... Frontispiece
II. Carte des Etats du Centre, de l'Ouest et du Sud des
Etats-Unis, 1804 [From the original French edi-
tion] 108

III. Photographic facsimile of title-page to Francois Andre

Michaux's Travels 109

rV. Photographic facsimile of title-page to Harris's Journal 309

V. Photographic facsimile of Map of Alleghany and

Yohiogany Rivers; from Harris's Journal . -331
VI. Photographic facsimile of Map of the State of Ohio, by

Rufus Putnam; from Harris's Journal . .351


We publish in this volume Andre Michaux's journal
of his travels into Kentucky from 1793-96, Englished by
us from the French version in the Proceedings of the
American Philosophical Society; a reprint of the English
version of Travels to the West oj the Alleghany Moun-
tains, made in 1802 by his son, Francois Andre Michaux;
and a reprint of Thaddeus Mason Harris's Journal oj a
Tour into the Territory Northwest of the Alleghany Moun-
tains, made in the Spring oj the Year 1803 — omitting,
however, as unnecessary to our present purpose, the
appendix thereto.

The Michauxs

Andre Michaux, whose name is known to scientists of
both hemispheres, was born at Satory, Versailles, in
1746. Destined by his father for the superintendence of
a farm belonging to the royal estate, Michaux early be-
came interested in agriculture, even while pursuing
classical studies. Upon the death of his young wife,
Cecil Claye, which occurred at the birth of their son,
Francois Andre (1770), he devoted himself to scientific
studies in the effort to overcome his grief. These natur-
aUy took the direction of botany, and Michaux became
imbued with a desire to seek for strange plants in foreign
countries. From 1779-81 he travelled in England, the
Auvergne, and the Pyrenees; and later (1782-85), in
Persia, botanizing, and studying the political situation of
the Orient. He had intended to return to Persia, but
while in France (1785) the government requested that he

t c c

II''' I *

i 2 Early Western Travels [Vol. 3

should proceed to North America in order to make a
study of forest trees, and experiment with regard to their
transplantation to France. Accordingly, in the autumn
of 1785, he left France, taking with him his young son.

Landing in New York he passed a year and a half in
that vicinity, herborizing, and attempting a botanical
garden. Finding the latitude of the Southern states,
however, more suited to his enterprise, he removed in the
spring of 1787 to Charleston. Purchasing a plantation
about ten miles from the city, he entered with enthusiasm
into the search for new plants and their culture upon his
estate. In this year he explored the mountains of the
Carolinas, and a twelve-month later made a difficult and
hazardous journey through the swamps and marshes of
Florida. The next year (1789) was occupied by a voy-
age to the Bahamas, and another search among the
mountains for plants of a commercial nature — notably
ginseng, whose utility he taught the mountaineers.

In 1794 he undertook a most difficult expedition to
Canada and the arctic regions about Hudson Bay, and
upon his return proposed to the American Philosophical
Society at Philadelphia an exploration of the great West
by way of the Missouri River. A subscription was begun
for this purpose, and Jefferson drafted for him detailed
instructions for the journey; 1 but his services were needed
in another direction, and the Missouri exploration was
abandoned for a political mission.

The discontent of the Western settlers with regard to
the free navigation of the Mississippi had reached an
acute stage; the French minister to the United States
had come armed with instructions to secure the co-opera-

1 See documents in Original Journals o) Lewis and Clark (New York, 1904),

1 793-1803] Preface 1 3

tion of trans-Allegheny Americans for a raid upon the
Spanish territory of Louisiana, aimed to recover that
province for the power to which it had formerly belonged,
and make it a basis for revolutionary movements in
Canada, the West Indies, and ultimately all Spanish
America. 2 This minister arrived in Charleston in Febru-
ary, 1793, and selected Michaux as his agent to commu-
nicate with the Kentucky leaders. An ardent republican,
already in the pay of the French government, and friendly
with influential men in government circles, Michaux
seemed a most desirable as well as the most available
agent possible. One characteristic was not, however,
sufficiently considered. Whatever may have been his
interest in the intrigue, whatever accounts thereof are
through caution or prudence omitted from the journal
here printed, one fact is evident — that Michaux was
chiefly devoted to the cause of science ; these pages reveal
that a rare plant or new tree interested him much more
than an American general or a plot to subvert Spanish

His first Kentucky journey was, from the point of view
of the diplomats, but moderately successful. With the
collapse of the enterprise — due to the imprudence of
Genet, the firmness of Washington, the growing loyalty
of the Westerners to the new federal government, and
the change of leaders in France — Michaux returned to
botanical pursuits, and his later journeys appear to have
been undertaken solely in order to herborize. There are,
however, some slight indications in the text that he enter-
tained hope of continuing the enterprise, and of its ulti-

2 See Turner, ' ' Origin of Genet's Projected Attack on Louisiana and the
Floridas" in American Historical Review, July, 1897; [also documents in
American Historical Association Report, 1896 and 1897.

1 ,

1 4 Early Western Travels [Vol. 3

mate success. His inquiries, in the Cumberland, for
guides for the Missouri expedition, prove that he had by
no means abandoned his purpose of undertaking that
hazardous project.

But these long Western journeys had exhausted his
resources; for seven years he had had no remittance
from the French government, and was now under the
necessity of returning to Europe to attend to his affairs.
Accordingly in 1796 he embarked for France, and was
shipwrecked on the coast of Holland, losing part of his
collections; but his herbarium was preserved, and is now
in the Musee de Paris. He ardently desired to be sent
back to America; but his government offered him no
encouragement, and finally he accepted a post upon an
expedition to New Holland, and in November, 1802,
died of fever upon the island of Madagascar.

His son, Francois Andre, entered into his father's pur-
suits and greatly assisted him. While yet a lad, he ac-
companied him on several arduous journeys in America;
at other times remaining upon the plantation, engaged
in the care of the transplanted trees. He returned to
France some years before his father, in order to study
medicine, and in the year of the latter' s death was com-
missioned by the French minister of the interior to pro-
ceed to the United States to study forests and agricul-
ture in general.

The journal of his travels was not originally intended
for print; but the interest aroused in the Western region
of the United States by the sale of Louisiana, induced its
publication. The first French edition appeared in 1804,
under the title, Voyage a Vouest des Monts Alleghany s,
dans les Etats de POhio, et du Kentucky, et du Tennessee,
et retour a Charleston par les Hautes-Carolines. Another

i793- l8o 3l Preface 1 5

edition appeared in 1808. The first was soon Englished
by B. Lambert, and two editions with different publish-
ers issued from London presses in 1805. The same year
another translation, somewhat abridged, appeared in
volume i of Phillip's Collection of Voyages. Neither of
these translations is well executed. The same year, a
German translation issued from the Weimar press.

The younger Michaux continued to be interested in
the study of trees, and spent several years in preparing
the three volumes of Histoire des Arbres forestiers de
VAmerique Septentrionale, which appeared in 1 810-13.
This was translated, and passed through several English
editions, with an additional volume added by Thomas
Nuttall under the title of The North American Sylva.

Michaux' s report on the naturalization of American
forest trees, made to the Societe d'Agriculture du departe-
ment de la Seine, was printed in 1809. 3 His "Notice
sur les Isles Bermudas, et particulierement sur ITsle St.
George" was published in Annates des Sciences naturelles
(1806), volume viii. He also assisted in editing his
father's work, Histoire des Chenes de VAmerique; and his
final publication on American observations was Memoire
sur les causes de la fievre jaune, published at Paris in 1852.
Dr. Michaux died at Vaureal, near Pontoise, in 1855.

In 1824 the younger Michaux presented to the Ameri-
can Philosophical Society at Philadelphia the note-
books containing the diary of his father's travels in
America — all save those covering the first two years
(1785-87), which were lost in the shipwreck on the coast
of Holland. The value of these journals has long been
known to scientists; their larger interest, as revealing
both political and social conditions in the new West, will

3 See review in Monthly Anthology (Boston, 1810), viii, p. 280.

1 6 Early Western Travels [Vol. 3

perhaps be first recognized upon this presentation of them
in English form. Written "by the light of his lonely
campfires, during brief moments snatched from short
hours of repose, in the midst of hardships and often sur-
rounded by dangers," their literary form is deficient, and
frequent gaps occur, which doubtless were intended
to be filled in at some future moments of leisure. This
was prevented by the author's untimely death in the
midst of his labors. For nearly a century the journals
existed only in manuscript. In 1884 Charles S. Sargent,
director of the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University,
prepared the manuscript for the press, with explanatory
notes chiefly on botanical matters. 4 It was published in
the original French, in the American Philosophical
Society Proceedings, 1889, pp. 1-145.

From this journal of nearly eleven years' travel in
America — from Florida on the south, to the wilds of
the Hudson Bay country on the north, from Philadel-
phia and Charleston on the Atlantic coast to the most
remote Western settlements, and the Indian lands of the
Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee — we have selected
for translation and inclusion within our series, the por-
tions that concern particularly the trans-Allegheny
region. These relate to the expedition made to Kentucky
by way of the Ohio (1793), with the return over the Wil-
derness Road and through the Valley of Virginia; and the
longer" journey (1795-96) from Charleston to 'Tennessee,
thence through Kentucky to the Illinois, and back by a
similar route with side excursions on the great Western

* The notes in the journals of the elder Michaux signed C. S. S., are those of
Sargent, found in the French edition and designed chiefly to elucidate botanical

1 793-1803] Preface 17

The journals of the elder Michaux "record the im-
pressions of a man of unusual intelligence — a traveller
in many lands, who had learned by long practice to use
his eyes to good advantage and to write down only what
they saw." A part of the value of these documents to a
student of Western history consists in their accurate and
succinct outline of the areas of colonization. The extent
and boundaries of Michaux's travels enable us to map
with considerable accuracy the limits of the settled
regions — first, that from Pittsburg down the Ohio to
just below Marietta; then, after passing a region without
a town, between Gallipolis and Limestone (Maysville,
Kentucky), the traveller enters the thickly occupied
area of Kentucky, bounded on the south and west by
the "barrens," into which emigration was beginning to
creep. In the Illinois, Michaux's unfavorable comment
upon the French habitants is in accord with that of other
visitors of the same nationality; his travels therein show
that the small French group were the only settlers, save a
few venturesome Americans at Belief ontaine, and ' ' Corne
de Cerf." In East Tennessee, the outpost was Fort
Southwest Point, where the Clinch and Holston meet;
thence, a journey of a hundred and twenty miles through
"the Wilderness" brought one to the frontier post of the
Cumberland settlements, at Bledsoe's Lick. Upon Mi-
chaux's return, nearly a year later, the Cumberland fron-
tier had extended, and Fort Blount had been built forty
miles to the eastward as a protection for the ever-increas-
ing number of travellers and pioneers. The western
borders of Cumberland were also rapidly enlarging.
Clarksville, on the Cumberland River at the mouth of the
Red, had long been on the extreme border in this direc-
tion; but Michaux found daring settlements stretching

1 8 Early Western Travels [Vol. 3

out beyond, seizing the rich river bottoms and organizing
a town as a nucleus for scattered planters.

Michaux faithfully presents the conditions that con-
fronted travellers in his day — the lack of inns, the stray-
ing of horses with the consequent annoyance and delay,
the inadequate means for crossing rivers, the frequent
necessity for waiting until a sufficient body of travellers
had collected to act as a guard through the uninhabited
regions. He also traversed nearly all the routes by which
emigration was pouring into the Western country — the
Wilderness Road to Kentucky, the routes from North
Carolina over the mountains to East Tennessee, the
Wilderness Road of Tennessee (this last a narrow and
dangerous link with the Cumberland settlements), the
paths thither to Louisville, and the Indian trails thence to
the Illinois; as well as the river routes — the Mississippi,
the Ohio, and the Cumberland.

Glimpses of the chief founders of the Western country
are tantalizing by their meagreness. We should have
valued more detailed accounts of conversations with
Clark, Logan, and Shelby, concerning Nicholas's plan
for securing the navigation of the Mississippi; of the
attitude of Robertson, Blount, and Daniel Smith toward
the French enterprise; and of the impression made at this
early day by "a resident near the Cumberland River,
Mr. Jackson." Particularly interesting is the record
of the number of Frenchmen who became prominent
and useful citizens of the West — Lucas at Pittsburg,
Lacassagne at Louisville, Tardiveau, Honore, and
Depauw at Danville and vicinity; apart from the settlers
at Gallipolis, whose misfortunes our author deplores.
It is hoped that this English version of the elder Michaux's
journals may prove a contribution of importance to

1 7 93- 1 803] Preface 1 9

those interested in early conditions in the Mississippi

Michaux's published works are, Histoire des Chines de
VAmerique — which appeared in 1801, and is supposed
to have been recast or corrected by other scientists — and
Flora B or eali- Americana, written in Latin by Richard
from the plants which Michaux had collected in America,
and issued a year after the latter's death. 5

The few years that intervened between the journeys of
the elder and younger Michaux show the rapidity with
which the West was changing. Conditions of travel had
meantime been improved, and the development of re-
sources was proceeding with bounds. The opening of
the Mississippi had caused an immense growth in both
the extent and means of Western commerce; the son
describes ship-building upon the waters along which the
father had passed in Indian canoes. The increase in
the number, size, and appearance of the towns, and the
additional comforts in the homes of the people, were indic-
ative of a great and growing prosperity.

The younger traveller describes the inhabitants with
more particularity than his father. His observations
upon the characteristics of the people, their occupations
and recreations and their political bias, are those of an
intelligent and sympathetic narrator, with a predisposi-
tion in favor of the Western settlers. His remarks in
chapter xii on the restlessness of the pioneers, their
eagerness to push onward to a newer country, their im-
patience with the growing trammels of civilization, show
habits of close observation. His optimism with regard
to the future of the country, in thinking that within
twenty years the Ohio Valley would be ' ' the most popu-

5 The references in Sargent's notes marked ' ' Michx.,' ' refer to this Flora.

20 Early Western Travels [Vol. 3

lous and commercial part of the United States, and where
I should settle in preference to any other," exhibits a
large comprehension of the forces and elements of West-
ern growth.

The American popularity of the younger Michaux's
journal, in its own time, proved his ability to interpret
the ideas of our people, and the sympathetic interest of a
cultured Frenchman in the democratizing processes of
the New World.

Thaddeus Mason Harris

Thaddeus Mason Harris, author of the Journal oj a
Tour into the Territory Northwest oj the Alleghany
Mountains, was one of the coterie of liberal clergymen
who occupied the New England pulpits in the early part
of the nineteenth century. As a member of this group,
Harris's observations of the Western country are of
peculiar interest. He had the training of the typical
New Englander — "plain living and high thinking."
Born in Charlestown in 1768, his family were driven from
their home at the battle of Bunker Hill, and three years
later the father died of exposure contracted during his
service in the Revolutionary army. As the eldest of the
children, Thaddeus was sent to ' ' board around ' ' among
the neighboring farmers, one of whom took sufficient
interest in the promising lad to fit him for college. An
accidental supply of money at a later period, accepted as a
special interposition of Providence, made such an im-
pression upon the young man's mind that he determined
to enter the ministry. He was graduated from Harvard
in 1787, in the same class with John Quincy Adams.
After a year's teaching at Worcester, the position was
tendered him of private secretary to the newly-chosen
President Washington, but an attack of small-pox pre-

1 793-1803] Preface 21

vented its acceptance, and the place was filled by Tobias

In 1789 our author was "approbated to preach," and
the following year received his A.M. degree, delivering
on the occasion the Phi Beta Kappa address. During
the two succeeding years he served as the librarian of his
alma mater, and was elected (1792) a resident member of
the Massachusetts Historical Society. The year 1793
saw Harris installed as pastor of the first church of Dor-
chester — a relation which was continued through over
forty years of faithful and acceptable service. A careful
pastor, he exposed himself during the epidemic of yellow
fever in 1802 to such an extent that he contracted the
disease, and during his convalescence the Western journey
was planned and undertaken as a means of recuperation.
In this it was eminently successful, and upon his return
to Dorchester Harris plunged anew into literary and phil-
anthropic labors. Within the next few years he aided in
founding the American Antiquarian Society, the Massa-
chusetts Humane Society, the American Peace Society,
the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the
Archaeological Society at Athens, and was chosen cor-
responding member of the New York Historical Society.
His addresses and sermons on different occasions found
their way into print, until nearly sixty were published.
Harvard honored itself by conferring upon him the degree
of doctor of divinity in 181 3, and during his entire later
life he acted as overseer in the college corporation. His
eldest son, a well-known entomologist, served as Har-
vard librarian for twenty-five years (1831-56).

After a second severe illness (1833), Dr. Harris visited
Georgia, and thereupon published a biography of Ogle-
thorpe. In 1838 he resigned his pastorate and spent

2 2 Early Western Travels [Vol. 3

his remaining five years in congenial literary pursuits,
serving for a time as the librarian of the Massachusetts
Historical Society. He is described as a "little quaint
old man, indescribably bent, but still wearing a hale
aspect, who used to haunt the alcoves of the library at
Harvard." After March, 1842, the place of the old
scholar and reader in the college library was vacant.

Dr. Harris made no contribution of permanent value
to American literature, unless the present book may be
so considered. Besides the works mentioned, he aided
(1805) in putting forth an encyclopedia, and a Natural
History of the Bible; the result of the last-named labor
was pirated by an English firm, which issued it in several
editions. The Journal of a Tour, which we here repub-
lish, sold well, and was soon out of print. In recent
years, the volume has brought a good price at antiquarian
sales. In addition to the journal proper, Harris added a
bulky appendix, entitled a ' ' Geographical and Historical
Account of the State of Ohio," from material collected
during his visit at Marietta, annexing thereto: a "Letter
to the Earl of Hillsborough on the navigation of the
Ohio (1770);" the "Act of Congress forming the State;"
the "Constitution of the State;" an "Account of the
destruction of the Moravian Settlements on the Muskin-
gum;" "Wayne's Treaty;" and a number of papers
connected with the formation of the Ohio Company of
Associates, and the establishment of the Northwest Ter-
ritory. This appendix we have omitted as not within
the sphere of the present series, and as containing infor-
mation which can readily be secured elsewhere.

As an observer, two points characterize Harris's narra-
tive — his enthusiasm for natural scenery, and the de-
light shown in its description; and the dryness of his

1793-1803] Preface 23

statements with regard to the human life which he saw
en route. Its chief value lies in the accuracy which he
exhibits in data concerning the size of the towns, their
prosperity and growth, their business interests, and stage
of material development; in matters regarding the growth
of ship-building and navigation, the number of manu-
factories, and the general material prosperity of the
region, Harris gives useful information. But as a picture
of Western life, or as a sympathetic relation of human
affairs in this region, the value is small. This arose in
part from the New Englander's stout prejudices against
conditions unfamiliar to him. His attitude toward the
Western inhabitants is quite the contrary of that of the
younger Michaux, and forms thereto an effective foil.

As with previous volumes of this series, the Editor has
had the active co-operation of Louise Phelps Kellogg in
the preparation of notes.

R. G. T.

Madison, Wis., February, 1904.

Journal of Andre Michaux, 1793 -1796

Source: Englished from the original French, appearing in Amer-
ican Philosophical Society Proceedings, 1889, pp. 91-101, 1 14-140.

Online LibraryReuben Gold ThwaitesTravels west of the Alleghanies : made in 1793-96 by André Michaux, in 1802 by F.A. Michaux, and in 1803 by Thaddeus Mason Harris. → online text (page 1 of 27)